POLITICS

David Cameron Visits Israel And Palestine As Peace Talk Deadline Draws Near

12/03/2014 07:56 GMT | Updated 12/03/2014 07:59 GMT
ASSOCIATED PRESS
Back dropped by the Dome of the Rock mosque and Jerusalem's Old City , Britain's opposition Conservative party leader David Cameron pauses during a tour in Jerusalem Thursday March 1. 2007. (AP Photo/Sameer Bazbaz)

David Cameron will use his first visit to Israel and the Palestian territory to call on leaders to take the "difficult final steps" to resolve the decades of conflict.

His visit comes just a month before US Secretary of State John Kerry's deadline for Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas to agree to an outline for a much-hoped for final peace deal.

Cameron will speak to both men during his two-day visit to Israel and the Palestinian territories, and before his departure he made clear he will urge them to focus on the potential opportunities that a definitive peace deal would offer their peoples.

His talks with them are likely to be couched in more diplomatic language now than in 2010 - when he called the Palestinian territory of Gaza " a prison camp" because of the Israeli blockade.

"Secretary Kerry's efforts to secure agreement on a negotiating framework that could lead to peace are entering a critical phase," the Prime Minister said. "And I'll be using my visit to support those peace efforts.

"I want to encourage Prime Minister Netanyahu and President Abbas to build on the strong leadership they have shown so far and to take the final difficult steps towards peace.

"The prize could be great: a stable, prosperous Middle East with a sovereign and viable Palestinian State living in peace alongside a secure Israel at the heart of it. A secure future. A prosperous future. That's what we should all set our sights on."

Cameron will address the Knesset - the Israeli Parliament - during his visit to Jerusalem and will also pay his respects at Israel's official memorial to the victims of the Holocaust at Yad Vashem.

But while peace is on the agenda, business is firmly top of the Prime Minister's list of priorities for the visit, as well as the hope that the latter will ease the former.

The Prime Minister is leading a 17-strong UK business delegation, including representatives of major companies like pharmaceuticals giant GSK, telecommunications firm Talk Talk, builders Balfour Beatty and engineers Arup, as well as smaller businesses like online glasses store myOptique and social trading website eToro.

Cameron will seek to encourage links between technology and innovation sectors in the UK and Israel.

He is expected to set out a £5 million collaboration between Britain's Technology Strategy Board and the Israeli Industry Centre for R&D to help firms from both countries bring innovative products to market, as well as £1 million in joint funding from the UK & Israeli governments for research into new areas of regenerative medicine.

Israeli companies are expected to sign inward investment deals, including medical company AposTherapy which is putting £10 million into new branches in Bristol and the North East and basing its European HQ in Britain, pharmaceutical company Teva putting £12 million into clinical trials and £600,000 into research on dementia and Noy Infrastructure and Energy Investment Fund, which will invest £50 million into the UK's renewable energy sector.

"There's a real opportunity to strengthen our commercial relationship with Israel," said Cameron. "Our tech partnership is the strongest of any in the world and we should capitalise on this - creating more jobs back in Britain and delivering economic security for hard-working families. I've got a planeload of innovative British companies coming with me and we'll be linking them up with Israeli businesses so they can forge new partnerships that will give them a competitive edge in the global race.

"We also want to see the development of the Palestinian economy and I'll be setting out new UK support to help Palestinian businesses become more competitive. To create new jobs and new industries that will also benefit Israelis next door, where a vibrant economy will find new partners."

Cameron will set out further UK support for business opportunities and jobs in the Palestinian territories, including £1.5 million of grants to enable 90 Palestinian companies to target foreign investors and enter new markets and £1.5 million funding to provide skills training for 1,000 refugee women in Gaza.

The Prime Minister is being joined by five members of the Holocaust Commission, which he launched earlier this year with the task of ensuring Britain has a permanent and fitting memorial to the victims of the Nazi genocide.

The commissioners, including broadcaster Natasha Kaplinsky, Arts Council chair Sir Peter Bazalgette and Holocaust survivor Ben Helfgott, will use the visit to gather evidence of innovative commemoration and education in Israel.